Duck farming: The poultry of the future

The history of duck consumption in this country is an interesting one. Duck consumption has graduated from a no man’s food into poor man’s food and then a delicacy. In the early and mid sixties, duck was regarded as ‘no man’s food; towards the end of the 70s it graduated into ‘poor man’s food. Those who were used to eating duck up to 80s were regarded as poor people who could not afford beef, chicken or turkey.

The demand for chemical-free meat has been increasing yearly because of the growing awareness of their safety, especially among health-conscious people. The prejudice against duck and duck consumption was informed by ignorance on the part of consumers.

When the term, poultry, is pronounced, the first picture that usually comes to mind is that of chicken and turkeys. What most people do not know is that poultry entails more than rearing these birds. There are many birds whose rearing is becoming popular and profitable. One of them is duck; entrepreneurs are now reaping from this neglected animal because it’s very easy to start and requires a small capital. Other neglected, but vital breeds are peafowl, ostrich, geese, guinea fowl, waterfowl, etc.

Although duck farming contribute to the alleviation of protein deficiency in diets of people in developing countries, they have largely been neglected as a livestock species due to ignorance. Most farmers have focused mainly on chicken and turkey farming. Thus, their actual contributions to healthy food production have been greatly underestimated by policy makers in the agricultural sector in developing countries. Especially in Nigeria, there is little knowledge on their production, marketing and consumption under smallholder conditions.

The domestic ducks are waterfowls. They are raised mainly in regions of high rainfall, riverine districts of the tropics. In Nigeria, local ducks are raised on free-range system alongside with domestic chickens. There are many species of duck, but the following breeds appear to be common: Muscovy, White Pekins, Buff, Blue Swedish, Aylesbury, etc. Duck farming can commence with a unit normally called a foundation stock, which is sold for N20, 000 depending on the breed. A unit comprises 1-males and 3-females.

Even though ducks are hardier and more resistant to diseases, they are fewer farmed than chicken due basically to cultural beliefs which tend to portray ducks as mystique birds. However, development in research and technology has increasingly eliminated these cultural barriers and enhanced productivity of the birds. Nigeria can thus take advantage of the economic and nutritional benefits of ducks to improve on the shortfall in the animal protein supply in family diets.

It’s my view that duck farming should be encouraged with a special focus on the traditional subsistence rearing system as practiced by limited- resource farmers. The birds can practically raise themselves and they are too prolific and versatile to be ignored.

Ducks are able to digest fibre and protein food relatively more efficiently than chickens. This is an advantage considering recent emphasis on non-conventional feedstuffs to bring down cost of feeding-inputs in the poultry industry.

Under free-range system, ducks are reared with minimal attention by the farmer with respect to what they eat. The scavenging ducks feed on grasses, seeds, insects, worms, etc. But under confinement, the farmer must provide the birds with balance feed for enhanced production. Duck farming in Nigeria is ideal for those in need of a cost effective farming.

Duck can lay up to 100 eggs per year depending on the specie. They start to lay eggs at about 18 weeks of age. The reproductive circle of duck comprises of 3 phases: Laying phase: 15 days, Incubation phase: 28-30 days, Brooding phase: 60-63 days.

If you are considering adding ducks to your farm, you will be making a wise choice, as they will be pleasant companions and entertain you daily while providing pest control, manure for your soil, meat, eggs and feathers.

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With reference to d above picture, I couldn’t sight any provision for their bath (swimming pool for duck) can it be neglected in duck farming?